HC Deb 04 August 1924 vol 176 cc2510-1
54. Sir K. WOOD

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has reconsidered his decision to exercise compulsory powers of purchase at Lulworth Cove; what steps he has taken to get another site for War Office purposes; and whether he has consulted the Dorset County Council on the matter?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Walsh)

In reply to the first and second parts of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply of 29th July to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). The decision then indicated has not been varied, but I shall be prepared to stay proceedings as soon as the owners of the land grant a short lease on suitable terms. During the period of such a lease, an alternative site could be sought for, but in the few weeks since the previous negotiations for a lease failed no effective steps to find such a site have been practicable. With regard to the last part of the question, I am not aware that the Dorest County Council have been consulted, but I am generally acquainted with their view. I should like to point out that the Department does not in any event propose to lease or purchase substantially more land than has been in our occupation for some years past. That land does not include Lulworth Cove itself, and I gather from a report made by two members of the late Army Council, after they had visited the site, that the amenities of the Cove and its approaches are but little affected by the War Department occupation of adjoining land.


As the right hon. Gentleman has had a considerable time to look out for another site, is he not able, the same as any other person, to know when his lease will end or when his tenancy will determine? Is he not aware that the Judge who tried this case gave a judgment against him, and why does he seek to go behind that position? Why cannot he get another site instead of taking this beautiful spot?


Does the right hon. Gentleman think it wise or necessary to flout public opinion in this way?


In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), I would remind him that he was a Member of successive Governments which held this place for years. I do not know what responsible position he held, but he held quite a big one, and he filled a very large place in the public eye. Under those Governments in which he did occupy such a distinguished position seven or eight years elapsed, and, as a matter of fact, since the decision of Mr. Justice Sankey, only a few days have elapsed, and it has been impossible for me to deal with the matter on any other lines than those that I have defined in this House. In so far as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) is concerned, I am quite sure that there is no desire on the part of this House or of the War Department to flout public opinion, and I have specially arranged that the answers in this House shall be so given as to leave an alternative, which I hope will be reached.

Viscount CURZON

The right hon. Gentleman has just stated that this tank school does not interfere with the amenities of the coast, but does he not think that six-pounder shells, fired, in some cases, 4,000 yards out to sea, interfere with the amenities of the cove and with the fishermen?


If these are the facts, I should certainly think it would interfere with the amenities of the cove.


May we understand that the public will have the same right of access to Lulworth Cove as they had before the War?


I have tried to reassure the House on a matter of much complexity that, in respect of the arrangement of a lease on suitable terms, the War Office will do its best to reach that conclusion. If such a lease can be arranged, none of the public amenities about which so much has been said will be interfered with.